Sunday, 31 August 2008

Sunday 31st August 08 York Green Festival #2

Well a very early start as I had to be at Rowntree Park by about 8am... but arrived so early that only one gate was open but soon others started to trickle in and I helped put together a marquee.

I was in charge of the stalls area and my role was to direct the various stallholders to their pitches and show them where to park their cars. The BBC bus came and eventually got parked up in the right place. Lots of other activity. I was working with a steward called Qing (pronounced 'Ting') and we walked round the stalls as she was doing photographs and wanted to know about each stall. I wasn't aware of the time, just that there was loads happening... and then there was a call on the walkie talkie for me to go to the BBC bus, so I went up there and they wanted to interview me about green lifestyles and the festival and my bike...

They had a clock and I noticed it had just turned 11... the festival had officially started! The interview didn't take long and I was able to get back to the stalls area. Various family and friends arrived, including Gill and the boys and Ali and Ruthie.

The park started to fill up and at one moment the sun came out... but it was still overcast and potentially wet. The Environmental Health Food Hygiene person came and then radioed through to say she was happy with everything. Before long it was approaching 1pm when I was due to present a balloon modelling workshop so I went to the kids area and blew up a whole unicycle's worth of balloons (I put them into the spokes to hold them) and the marquee filled up... loads of children, and as I was doing the workshop, more and more came.... So I did an hour's worth of balloons, an almost endless queue of expectant children all wanting a balloon of their choice. I was glad when there were no more and I could get back to my Festival organiser duties and by this time it had started raining. But the Festival went on and there was lots to do... a very busy few hours.

At about 3.40 I went to the main stage as my favourite band were due to be on, but everything was running late and The Falling Spikes weren't due to be on for at least half an hour. I knew that the music would overrun so I went to find Baz to discuss this with him and he suggested that the music could continue til 5.30, which I wasn't too happy with as this would probably breach our consent. But I didn't argue for a 5pm finish as the audience were still enjoying the music and were resolutely ignoring the rain.

I started doing some litter duties, sorting out different waste streams into different bags, and taking the paper plates/food for composting and the aluminium cans for recycling. The Falling Spikes just did two, possibly three numbers and finished at 5.30 and the park soon became a lot emptier... but I stayed there til 7, doing assorted tidying duties, litter-picking the main lawn and helping John and Len the park-keepers sort out the last of the mess.

I came home very slowly as my trailer was overloaded but got home shortly before 8 and Gill had some home-grown potato chips ready for me, to which I added a couple of yummy things from Azra's curry stall.

Boys overtired and grouchy but they did eventually get to bed and I watched a brilliant programme on Sculpture on C4+1...

Later collected emails and wrote up this blog.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Saturday 30th August 08

Awoken by a phone call from a friend who's lonely at the weekend since his family has broken up, so I told him about York Green Festival tomorrow and he'll come down sometime in the afternoon. Then there was another phone call from a Fiddlesticks enquirer... and another phone call after that! It's so busy that it's almost like we have a Freefone number!

However the boys went out to play so Gill and I had a bit of time together after which I cycled round to the bread shop and then cut one of the hedges at the bottom of the garden. Over lunch we watched an old Time Team on More 4, and I did emails.

During the afternoon I did a huge pile of pruning.. holly, laurel, privet hedge, and shredding... almost a cubic metre of the stuff...

At about 5pm, cycled down to Rowntree Park to help put up marquees, with Baz and David, Bob and Richard, and advice from Liz who was tipsy (Baz's friend). The solar cinema was being put up with assistance from Sarah and I left at nearly 7pm.

Back home for a small tea and a cold shower as was extremely hot and sweaty... not suitable material for a party, which is where I was off to next. Will was having a 'wellness party' following too much time unwell, and it was an excellent party, with quite a few folks I knew and some I didn't. Drinks, food, music, then some games, and then I did a little balloon show which was fun for all concerned.

Home at about midnight.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Friday 29th August 08

A slow start to the day but at 9.30 the Everest door surveyor came to look at our front door which has been playing up and not closing very well, or being difficult to open from outside. He thinks it is now sorted! He was interested in our logburners and we chatted for a bit about fireplace efficiency, chimney linings etc etc.

One of the boys' friends came round to play, so they went upstairs and were very quiet for a bit... I did some emailing re York Green Festival and then got dressed.

A happy day... picked plums from our old plum tree with assistance from our youngest son (whilst Gill and t'other were in town getting yet more uniform) and then stacked sticks, again with some help from our youngest... who by his good behaviour earned a little bit of pocket money.

I popped down to Country Fresh and was shocked that because of the Green Festival, they'll be shut on Sunday! Richard is the drummer in The Falling Spikes and will be enjoying the festy... and as the other staff member won't work weekends, the shop will be shut. I picked up three boxes of gunk for composting and some broccoli for eating.

During the evening we all watched 'Wainwright's Walks on telly, as it was Helvellyn and Striding Edge, my favourite Lake District walk. I did this with my bone surgeon Roger Austin when I was a teenager... he mended my smashed elbow and became a friend (also he worked with my Dad who was an anaesthetist)

When the boys were in bed we had a game of Scrabble and Gill won by 6 points! I cut up and peeled some of the plums, mainly ones which had some rotten bits (which I cut off!) and placed them on the fruit-drying rack on top of the stove. These then turn into one of the best dried fruits, a kind of prune, minus stone, and wonderfully chewy and sweet. One of my favourites!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Thursday 28th August 08

A very early start as we'd organised a day out... and as the weather looked better in the North East than the North West, we didn't do the Settle to Carlisle railway but took the 8.27 to Alnmouth so we could go to Alnwick to go to the amazing garden there. Arrived in Alnmouth (well, the station which is a mile outside the coastal village) and got a bus to Alnwick, and the castle and garden is very close to the town...

We spent the morning around the cascade, a wonderful flight of waterfalls with half-hourly fountains and water jets, and occasional other water jets which went really high and were fun to dodge... or get wetted by! The boys loved playing on the tractor toys at the base of the cascade, and walking up the rills which have cobbles on the base to make it easy to do so in the shallow but fast-flowing water, and enjoyed playing with the water in the ornamental garden at the top of the cascade too.

Then we went for a sit-down on the lawns and had our sandwiches we'd brough with us... and our eldest and I went on the guided tour of the poison garden which had a good variety of narcotic and toxic plants from nettles to rhubarb, giant hogweed to cannabis, opium to henbane, coca to foxglove... absolutely fascinating!

After this we went to check out the treehouse via an ice-cream and Gill was brave and walked the wobbly bridges. I took some delight in making them as wobby as possible.... made me giggle, naughty me! The boys laughed as well though, it was fun seeing Mum holding on as if for dear life!

The bamboo labyrinth wasn't a proper labyrinth, more of a maze. But the best thing we left til last, the interactive water sculptures which the boys absolutely adored... and got completely soaked. After the best part of an hour here, we went to the lawns and wrang their teeshirts out, and after a while headed into Alnwick to try to find a charity shop with dry shorts etc. Gill got two pairs of pants in Woolworths and shorts in a charity shop.... perfect!

Wandered round the town and eventually wound up at the bus station where we got the 4.47 bas to Alnmouth Station where we only had a 5 minute wait before the York train came... and back into York at 6.45.

Wednesday 27th August 08

A hectic day which ended very late as I had a deadline for my column in Community Care.

However, during the day I responded to a call from a chap in Heworth area who called me and said he'd taken down a couple of trees in his garden and did I want the wood? Well of course I did! Has the World not had too much fossil carbon emitted? Is the Mona Lisa not the most famous smiling person ever? Is the Pope unconcerned about overpopulation? (am I veering off-topic here?)

So I cycled round to his place and there was a large pile of relatively thin 'logs', branches and twigs... but I am happy to have them as they've been carefully cut and stored, some even chopped to length and bagged (albeit in plastic sacks which have started to oxo/photo-degrade revealing rather damp/mouldy sticks!) so I collected two loads. There's at least another 5 loads to go! On the first trip I had a lengthy chat with him and his visitor Jo who'd interviewed me yonks ago on Hospital Radio about York Credit Union, and then a lengthy chat with his plumber Glenn who employed me once for a gig at the Hopgrove Playing Fields... but the second journey I spoke to no-one and did the return trip in 35 minutes...

In the evening I went to St Nicks to be 'an audience' to four novice presenters who have undergone training to get them ready to talk about Transition. I enjoyed pretending to be an OAP chap with a firm belief that there is an Ice Age on the way... after all, this was a popular idea in pre-global warming times not so long ago, and sometimes oldies still refer to it...
So several good presentations, gave feedback.

Back to the house at about 10pm where I put together my column, on water...

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Tuesday 26th August 08

Awoken just after 9 by one of my sons yelling at the top of his voice 'I can't find my underpants'... such are the joys of parenting.
However I'm glad that I woke up then as I had a gig at 10 at York College, the other side of town, so I hurriedly wolfed my muesli and brushed my hair for Gill to re-plait it, loaded up my trusty steed and by 9.35 was on my merry way, in costume so no delays at the other end.

Got to the college on the dot of 10, my first time in the new building so no idea where to go but the Out of School Club leader came down to meet me and took some of my gear upstairs, I locked my bike and brought the rest in, and withing 5 mins was starting my show for 18 young people.

Both shows went well and at middayish we were finishing and I left a handwritten invioce for them to send me a cheque soon.

Home via the Building Society to put in two cheques from Sunday and Monday, and the Country Fresh shop to pick up two large boxes of recyclables meaning I was quite overloaded coming up Heslington Road. Late lunch, lit the stove so I can wash up, emails and out into the garden to sort the boxes into compostables, edibles and dryables. Gill took the boys to friends and went on into town to get about £200 worth of uniform for our eldest who's going to his secondary school next week.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Monday 25th August 08

Bank Holiday Monday... which means I'm working!

So an early start, up at 7.15 to be at Woodlands MS Respite Care Centre over the road for 8.15 where there was the MS Society minibus awaiting to take me and the volunteers to the event at Allerthorpe Park. We had quite an animated chat on the way... a pair of regular volunteers from one of the MS shops, and several French or French speaking people, Simon and Pierre, and a lovely Pakistani PhD-er doing cancer protein stuff called Rubab. They were working on the stall or in the carpark.

Helped get the gazebos up and was shown my place between a clothes stall and a chip van. 10am came and I put my hat on and slowly got into character; soon there were plenty of interested people who wanted to try out devilsticks or juggling. One young teenager, Mark, spent lots of the day trying out the unicycle and by the end of the day at 4pm had mastered it... brilliant! Several other people had learned to juggle and everybody seemed to have had fun. I'd had a MS Society collecting tin hanging on a post near me and had asked for donations for balloon animals, so raising some cash for the charity.

And I had fun AND got a cheque!

Home in the minibus, got in before 5 and the house was empty but pizza dough was proving on top of one of the still-warm 5 gallon pans of water on top of the stove. I got changed (I'd travelled in costume) and did some shredding in the garden, more hedge prunings to add to the hot tumbler...

Gill and the boys came in, they'd been to Fulford Show and stopped over at Melody and Simon's house on the way back.

Lovely home-made pizza for tea with home-grown tomato and cucumber salad.

Tried my first game of Literati on Yahoo during the evening, as an alternative to Scrabulous but it's not as good.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sunday 24th August 08

Another work day... but woke late after a late night... but didn't have to get to the station til midday as I have a gig in Middleton Park in Leeds at 2pm. So I had a shave and wash and got myself to the station to get the 12.13 train to Penzance and met a young(er) woman whom I sort of recognised but couldn't quite place... but it turned out she, Katie, was/is a volunteer at St Nicks so we had a happy chat until Leeds.

I was met by Alan from Friends of Middleton Park and he drove me to the venue which was a building next to a fishing lake in Middleton Park. I was pleased that the group had bought some circus skills equipment to help with the workshop. I'd thought that my activity would be part of a larger event, but it wasn't... it was just me plus four volunteers and Alan serving teas and cakes... It was a lovely, good-natured event, very easy for me to do, and 4pm came soon.

Alan gave me a lift back to the station and there was a train awaiting me(!) and I was home by 5pm.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Saturday 23rd August 08

My eldest son's birthday, so was woken by Gill asking me to wake up as he wanted to open his present from us, which was, as requested, a radio-controlled tarantula which he'd seen in the Anti-Gravity shop. So he wasn't surprised but was happy... I fitted the batteries and they both played quite happily with it for a while.

The post came and it was the latest edition of the Community Composting Network's magazine 'The Growing Heap' which I proceeded to read cover to cover... it's always riveting and never long enough! Their AGM is in a few weeks and once again it's on a weekend when I'm working, such a drag. I would REALLY love to attend this event sometime but it won't be this year, as I'm in Preston entertaining new recruits to the University.

During the day I got an email from an American email discussion list called 'Compost Digest' which I subscribe to (managed by the US Composting Council) and there was a message with a link to this, saying that the first sentence was just the best first sentence in any piece introducing composting: and I totally agree!
If you want to subscribe to Compost Digest, send an email message with subject or body 'help' to or, via the web:

Our birthday boy had a visitor, a lad in the year below him, but less than a year younger and they get on very well (as we do with his parents!) and the three of them spent the whole day playing happily, and they had a late tea after which the birthday boy and I cycled him back home, picking up a good pile of logs on the way from the usual free logpile place, now seriously depleted!

I did some chainsawing today in an attempt to try and tidy up the front garden. Also, when I logged into Facebook, found that Scrabulous had gone... the owners of Scrabble have finally got to the UK Facebook users, so I spent some time posting various bits and bobs on the several pages devoted to saving Scrabulous, and sent an email to Mattel the UK owners.

Late in the evening Gill and I had a good game of Scrabble... on the board, not on our laptops (there are several online versions, but not on Facebook) and fairly predictably, I won. Gill says it's because I've been getting loads of practice with Scrabulous... but no more...

Friday, 22 August 2008

Friday 22nd August 08

A lovely lazy morning, read quite a chunk of NewScientist and did emails, lots of York Green Festival stuff going on, as it's only just over a week away.

Got up at lunchtime and had a small lunch then went out into the garden to clear up the hedge cuttings and some woody bits which have been dumped in the front garden. It's a continuous job to try to keep the front reasonably tidy... like the painting of the Forth Bridge. As soon as there's any space, it gets filled with new material ready for processing.

I had an early tea..... Gill put it together.. cauliflower and nutloaf, and by 5.30 I was getting ready to cycle out along the Wigginton Road to Creepy Crawlies where the 'Snappy Beach Party' was taking place... and I was due to perform at this fundraiser. This was the first time I'd been to Creepy Crawlies, and it's an impressive space with good facilities.

I was shown a good place for my activity, which when I arrived was being used by a singer and pianist. I parked my bike and trailer up and waited for them to finish and move, and my friend Ali arrived with her daughter and carer, all the way from Sheffield. It had been quite an interesting journey for them... the little one's first train journey, and as the wheelchair space in standard class was occupied, they had to go in first class. They'd pre-booked, including seats for the carer and child, but there was a besuited NHS chap with laptop in this pair of seats who refused to move when asked, even though they had seat reservations. A bit later, when the ticket inspector asked where Ali was going, she said where and told him about the SNAPPY charity fundraiser, as the charity had had it's funding pulled by the Council and the NHS. The NHS man visibly bristled! This made Ali feel a little bit better about his refusal to vacate the seat!

At about 6.45 the singer/painist duo moved and I got myself unpacked and ready to go... the space was not ideal, rather cramped but the show went quite well, despite competing demands from other distractions, people walking through the stage area, loud amplified announcements, etc. I suppose you can't have chips with everything! I was glad to get that part of the evening finished and do some balloon modelling, much easier in the circumstances, and this activity raised some money for SNAPPY too.

I was able to spend a bit of time with Ali before she went to get in her awaiting charriot, and at 9pm I cycled home.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Thursday 21st August 08

Woken up fairly early and decided that as the weather was reasonable I'd try to finish the job I started the other day, helping Joan in Tang Hall deal with her fallen apple tree. I cycled my quiet electric shredder round in my trailer and spent about an hour feeding all the huge pile of twiggy bits through plus some of the smaller apples. This resulted in four sacks of shreddings, perfect for my composting. Also a pile of sticks for kindling (in a year or two!) and some bigger logs.

Gill took the boys into town on the bus, to take back a computer game that our youngest bought (create a monster) which the person in the shop said didn't need internet access to use... but it does so it's getting taken back. Their computer doesn't have internet and Gill's laptop (second hand) doesn't have Windows XP, the programme needed for the game. I suppose they could run it on my laptop but I'd prefer them not to! They walked back from town, getting in as I was having lunch.

Gill wanted to go to town to have a hair cut so I persuaded the boys to cycle to the park with a football and a frisbee and we spent over an hour there, playing together on the seesaw and swings, and I found some of my favourite mushrooms, the 'fairy ring champignon' (Marasmius oreades) which is very tasty and quite meaty although small. I picked a hatful.

Came home with these plus three long branches sticking out of my trailer, and when we got back the boys played on the trampoline, making a hell of a noise whilst I picked a load of blackberries and cut a hedge. I had rescued some pears from the veg shop a day or two ago and cut out the bad bits (mostly less than 20% of the available fruit) and stewed these pear slices on top of the woodstove with the blackberries... totally yummy.

During the evening, our youngest child felt unwell, with a tummy ache and loose bowels, and at bedtime whilst doing his teeth, 'passed wind' and also some bloody mucus so I rang the out of hours doctor and asked what we should do. The doc rang back, and after the usual set of questions advised me to bring him to the hospital to the out of hours doctor service, next to the A+E department. We got him dressed and I got a cushion for my bike back-rack, and he sat on this, holding onto me and we cycled down the cycle track all the way to the hospital's A+E department. This seems to have been refurbished... not to quite palatial standard but it is very nice, as was the doctor who saw us. She took his temperature and palpated his tum... and suggested that as he was quite cheerful, he didn't have a bacterial infection but probably a viral inflammation. The advice was to take him home, encourage him to have plenty of liquids and he'd get better soon. If he got worse, contact them again...

We got home just in time for me to see the last installment of 'The Man Who Cycled The World' which was really inspiring. Late night watching programme on how humans abuse the seas especially sharks, whilst typing away...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Wednesday 20th August 08

Morning in the garden, weeding, harvesting potatoes, picking beans

Afternoon went over to Knaresborough to do a gig in a care home.

Evening went to a York in Transition meeting.

Tuesday 19th August 08

An afternoon at work, playscheme in Leeds

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Monday 18th August 08

Spent most of the morning skirting around our visitors who were getting packed, and doing loads of washing up. Later in the morning the adults went to the bank to sort out a problem there, they have had some money taken out of their account by someone else, possibly by someone doing a phone transaction and entering a wrong digit... possibly!

This took much longer to sort out than they'd planned and they eventually got off at after 2pm, heading for Birmingham to pick up some stuff they left with friends when they were living here, and then on to Dover where they are camping overnight before a long drive back to Germany.

I went into town as soon as they were gone, and put in a cheque I found whilst sorting through piles of paperwork looking for a letter from a booking in July, where they'd asked for an invoice, I'd written one out and they'd refused to pay me as the invoice was handwritten. I wrote a robust reply explaining my situation and ethics (ie no printer, never using 'new' paper, only re-using already used paper printed on one side only) and told them that if I didn't have a payment by 1st September that I'd start proceedings in the small claims court. I cycled this to the company and talked it through with the boss of the woman who booked me, who has gone on holiday. He said he'd talk to head office and see if they could sort something out quickly.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Sunday 17th August 08

Most of the day was with activities connected to our German friends... including delivering leaflets for the Green Party with their teenage boy, whom I get on very well with.

I did however have a good hour and a half on the lottie, weeding and digging up spuds... the ground was soft with all the rain we've had, so I was able to pull out big dandelions by hand, the long tap-root coming out easily. All the potatoes have succumbed to the rain but there's a good crop under the soil. The brambles in the boundary areas are burgeoning and many needed chopping back and cutting into short lengths for the compost heap.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Saturday 16th August 08

Early start to get packed and the cottage clean and onto the 11.06 bus back home.
Got off in Heworth and walked the mile home, quite laden with stuff, but better than going all the way into town to the station and then getting a bus or taxi back out to Hull Road.

When home, I lit the stove to get hot water and soon after Gill and the boys came in, our German friends arrived... they're camping in our garden tonight.

I was about to go down to Country Fresh when a gentleman stopped and asked if I'd like to pick up a fallen apple tree from one of his friend's garden. I went with him in his car to visit the garden owner and see the tree, and agreed to process the tree and dispose of the remnants. Will do that later this week.

Then picked up from Country Fresh, was good to see Richard again after such a break.

Popped into Debbie on the way back to give her some fresh veg and catch up with her news.

We cooked for the German children and the grown-ups went out to have a meal out. We'll go out tomorrow night whilst they hold the fort.

I logged onto my emails quite late and had 200+ to go through and deal with, delete and reply to. Bed well-after 2am.

Friday 15th August 08

Last full day in Whitby.. so we spent most of it on the beach!!!

Another arty creation again, after extracting as many boulders out of the sand as we could. I made a wall plus various uprights out of wooden bits, with seaweed decorations. Again, lots of admiration from other beach-users. When the tide came in so far that we had to leave the bit of beach we were using, we watched the incoming tide from a vantage-point and laughed at other tourists getting their belongings wet with incoming waves. I had a good chat with a visitor called Hilary.

In the evening I watched all of Gardeners World as I tidied up and got things ready for going home tomorrow.

Game of Scrabble which Gill won, which was good. I'm glad she sometimes beats me.

Thursday 14th August 08

Another day on the beach... this time reused the rocks and boulders which we excavated from the sand where they had been burried by the tide and made a cairn, aided by our German friends who joined us at about 11am. Our creation was well-admired by many passers-by, several took a photo so if we're lucky, I'll get an image or two of it emailed to me. I will attempt to put that in this blog which so far has been just text.

When it started raining we went back to the cottage and when ready, walked up to the Museum and Art Gallery, which was excellent! Spent ages there.

Ate tea with them back at our place and some of us went for a walk to the Abbey (well, up the steps to the church) and then out to the harbour defences.

They cycled away again at 8.30ish, and later Gill and I had another game of Scrabble.

Wednesday 13th August 08

First full day in Whitby.... went down to the beach with the boys and created a sandcastle with them, using big boulders from higher up the beach and some driftwood.... made a good-looking sculptural art-installation!

Soon Gill joined us and soon after that, our German friends Sabine and Rolf and their three children... the middle one was at school with our youngest which is how we know them.

When it started raining after lunch, they came back to our place and stayed til 8.30pm, sharing our evening meal. They then all cycled back to the campsite just outside Whitby.

Tuesday 12th August 08

A fairly early start... getting ready to go to Whitby to join the family for our holiday.

Took a taxi to Stonebow to get the 10.30 bus.. arrived in Whitby at 12.30ish, met by Gill and the boys.

They took me to the lovely cottage which was just off Flowergate, and had a wonderful view of Whitby and the church overlooking the harbour.

Went for a walk around and had a game of Scrabble in the evening with Gill once the boys were in bed.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Monday 11th August 08

Home today

Sunday 10th August 08

Last full day

Saturday 9th August 08


Friday 8th August 08

I started the day by doing a collection round with a wheelbarrow, calling out 'Bring out your Biodegradables' and 'Cooked food, raw food, cardboard, tissues, anything compostable' and got a good load plus lots of positive comments and laughter.

At 12 I did a workshop in the Permaculture area on composting... the sign-writers had changed my title (something like 'How home-composting can reduce your carbon footprint') to 'How composting can save the Planet' which I found quite funny... but it drew a crowd of three who were all eager to hear my 'What it is, how to do it, why, and info on Master Composter schemes' talk, followed by a question and answer session. At about 12.50 I asked my lad if he'd get his stuff from the tent and we then scooted along to the entrance to meet Gill and our youngest who'd got a train to Harrogate, bus to Ripon and a 'Little Red Bus' service up to Grewelthorpe.

We had a quick walk around the site and ended up at the crew mess tent for something to eat. Gill had brought a birthday cake for our youngest who has his birthday over the weekend, and that was fun as the whole table sang to him. We then went to the entrance so Gill and the boys could get the 2.30 bus back to Ripon.

I continued working during the afternoon, and later when it chucked it down watched a film in the solar cinema called 'On the Verge' which was brilliant. I bought a copy of the DVD too. I had some fun in the evening when I went to see a band called The Electric Brains, and I blew up a load of long modelling balloons which people waved around. I really loved the theramin.... the chap playing it could really play it, not just make sounds, but get tunes out of it and that's not at all easy... a fab gig.

Thursday 7th August 08

Our first full day at NGG. I continued to source pallets and construct three compost bins, affixing them with wire. I used one pallet on the ground horizontally and put the 4 others vertically, making a cube shape. The bottom pallet had several layers of bark placed on it to cover the holes between the planks, and then cardboard to complete the job, before the assorted compostables were put in layers with more cardboard to help support the stuff and balance the carbon:nitrogen ratio, as the food materials are very nitrogen-rich.

We also did a compost toilet materials collection, hoisting up the wheelie bins from the 'wet' compost toilets into the trailer pulled by the tractor, and unloaded them into a specially constructed solid-sided humanure composter, which I'd put a load of willow twigs into, and loads of straw.

My boyo was seemingly having a really good time... he kept on disappearing and then turning up with a big grin on his face. I have no idea what he'd been doing but that didn't matter, he was happy and in a safe place.

In the evening I watched a band called Katus, I liked the singer's voice.

Wednesday 6th August 08 Northern Green Gathering

Set off in the morning to the Northern Green Gathering with my eldest son.
Took bus to town and waited at the Rougier St Bus place, as directed by the Businfo folks on the telephone. Our bus came but went straight past us... the driver hadn't seen us as there was another bus in the way. It stopped at the lights and we both ran to get it, knocked on the door and fortunately, so fortunately, the driver opened them and let us get on. He explained that that stop was not an official stop, and he would have stopped there if we'd have signalled him to do so, but the other bus companies didn't like his company stopping there as a matter of course, but his official stop was round at the station. He was really nice and I got tickets, explaining about the businfo directions to get on at Rougier St.

There were two other NGG-bound people on the bus, so we chatted and the journey went quickly. We were soon in Ripon. The other folks had told us that there was a scheduled bus going through Grewelthorpe from Ripon quite soon after we got in... so we got on that with them and a handful of others. That 'Little Red Bus Company' driver let us get off at the bottom of the lane so there was only a 10 min walk to the site. We got there soon after 1pm.

The site was relatively empty, still setting up for tomorrow the official first day. We eventually worked out where the Permaculture area was and found Matt, the chap I've been in email contact with. He showed us where crew camping was and I found a fairly flat spot... not easy as the whole site is in lovely hilly fields.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Tuesday 5th August 08

A busy day, lots of visitors and calls.

I had a provisional booking from a stately home for Christmas entertainment through my agent, and a visit from a chap from Listers electrical to size-up our gaff to give us a quote for solar hot water. The company started 30 years ago doing solar systems but they were only getting 15 orders a year so they switched to doing electricals. But recently they've decided to get back into solar hot water, and have got quite a few orders. In the current 'climate' with rising fuel bills, solar hot water systems make a lot of sense. So we look forward to a quote.

I had a visit from Martin the York Green Festival treasurer, for me to sign 5 cheques. Two he took with him to send to their recipients, two were collected by Bob.. one was for him as he'd spent on posters and the other was for Baz for various small items. There was one for me to refund the insurance I paid for weeks ago.

Then the SUMA order arrived, most of it for Phil B who is taking it to France where he goes to visit a community. Later, Phil came to pick it up.

I cycled fast into town in the rain to pay in my cheque, and came back via Country Fresh to do a last pick up before my little break. I am justabout out of space here so I took it to St Nicks to use their composting systems, and layered it with some woody cuttings left by a local resident.

One of my friends rang last night in a distressed state and asked me to visit so I did, but the issues had sorted themselves out so I came away as was very busy.

We had pizza for tea... we rarely have 'ready meals' but we got a coupon from our membership of the Co-op which had to be spent on ready meals, so got that as a treat. It wasn't as good as Gill's pizzas though.

Before 7 I cycled to St Nicks to unload the compostables and prepare for the York in Transition meeting, where we planned to show the film 'The Power of Community' which shows how Cuba coped with 'Peak Oil' in the 90's when the Soviet Union broke up and exports/imports dropped considerably... including oil. It's an excellent film... but the disc we were using stopped playing halfway but that left plenty of time to have some discussions. Was pleased to meet my friend Shan again... but failed to persuade her to buy a compost bin!

Home to pack to go to the Northern Green Gathering tomorrow, where I'm doing the composting as usual! I'm going with my eldest son, which should be good as when we're together without the other family members we get on really well.

Had a reasonably short chat on Skype, but did my blog at the same time.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Monday 4th August 08

Nice slow wake up, actually read for half an hour before getting up... trying to catch up on NewScientist which I'm 4 weeks behind on...

But up at 9 and breakfasted with the boys, and at 9.30 looked at the computer to see if the events at St Nicks were suitable for them. I rang up and found there was space available, but when I told them to get dressed I was met by a wall of resistance, neither wanting to do anything 'so early'. I tried to persuade them but it is impossible to make children do what they have decided they are not doing.

So I went into town to pay in a cheque, get a cheque out, buy coffee and some other bits, and to St Nicks to swap the Comp 250 compost bin given up by Kate for a normal dalek bin, which she and I much prefer. So came home with shopping and a compost bin, for about midday, and the kids had been playing nicely in the garden, were about to have lunch, and then have 50 mins each on the computer.

A good afternoon, including a gardener in a flat-bed truck with a small load of Sycamore logs which he was only too happy to get rid of... Gill went into town despite being in pain (it is gradually getting better) to see if she could get some children's clothes, as our boys keep growing!

When she got back I went to visit Anna B, a friend from York in Transition who wanted confirmation that her compost heaps were ok... which they were! She swapped the advice and mixing for a few alpine strawberry plants. I cycled back via some logs, and came back to find Gill had made tea for the boys.

I cooked tea for Gill and myself, and then went out to the LETS meeting. Only 3 of us turned up. But it was a good meeting and we got quite a lot done, despite the lack of core group members filling available posts. However, YorkLETS will fold if we don't have some more volunteers to share the jobs that need doing if the system is to continue.

Home at about 10pm, with a couple of discarded conifer trees and a broken half-barrel from the pub... I offered to recycle them and they were happy that they weren't going to have to go to the skip-site!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Sunday 3rd August 08

The boys let us sleep in fairly late, but by 9am they were hungry and starting to fight, so I got up and helped Gilly get breakfast for them. A lazy morning really, did do about half an hour in the garden and then watched Countryfile and washed up.

Lots of childcare stuff during the day, they're both at a loose end and mooching around so tried to find things to occupy them which they were interested in and didn't result in 'Why would I want to do that?'

I did a lot of tidying up too, which pleased Gill, who was trying to keep going despite the pain.

Did a shop at the Co-op and Country Fresh, and at 4, visited Kate Lock to help her with her composting... a fairly dry bin of mainly animal bedding which wasn't composting down very well so we bagged that up and I took that bin down (a Comp 250) and replaced it with a 330 litre 'dalek' which I'd bought from St Nicks. We then 'turned' an existing bin's contents plus a sack of partly composted bedding into the newly installed bin, leaving one to be refilled. The other recently filled dalek was heaving with worms, as was a dustbin full of animal bedding and weeds. Kate has done so well with her 'green challenges', and she gave me a copy of her newly published book, Confessions of an Eco-Shopper. She also gave me a failed loaf she had tried to make using oat flour, but it hadn't risen (I explained why!) and I said it might make a good nutloaf... and was happy to be given it! Thanks Kate.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Saturday 2nd August 08

Another busy Summer Saturday.... had been booked to start work at Tockwith Show at 10am, so I loaded up what I needed on my trailer and packed my panniers and set off at about 8.40, as I expected to take just over an hour to cycle the 12 miles to Tockwith. As usual when I take this route, I took a brief break at the Battle of Marston Moor memorial, and then continued, getting to the Secretary's Marquee on the dot of 10, where Les the event organiser found someone to take me to the spot he wanted me to occupy.

I did over 2 hours of workshops and then had a break to go and get a meal ticket which entitled me to a veg pie with Yorkshire Feta, green salad with balsamic vinegar dressing, local new potatoes and 3 other salads... with orange juice, followed by a pear crumble 'sweet' and coffee. Delicious... and kept me going til well after 5 when I was supposed to stop... but I still had crowds wanting to try out my various pieces of equipment and get a balloon animal...

Then eventually packed up and went to get paid, and cycled swiftly with the wind behind me back to the memorial, where I had a half-hour sit down and ate my sandwiches for tea. Got back home at 7pm... a very long day and 24 miles cycling.

The day passed completely without incident until I was cycling along Bishopthorpe Road, heading for home, and I suddenly heard a loud hissing behind me just like a lorry with air-brakes or something. However, there wasn't a vehicle behind me, just my trailer with the two unicycles on it. My trailer tyres seemed to be ok, so I guessed it might have been a unicycle tyre. So when it was safe, I pulled in and checked... and yes, my big uni had got a flat tyre. How weird! I wasn't riding it and nothing seemed to have caused the rapid deflation, but it was completely flat. Very odd!

Gill gave me blackberry pie when I got in after I had unloaded the stuff and taken a fruit-fly-ridden box of grot down to a waiting heap. Enjoyed watching a programme on the London Underground, with the lovely voice of Sir John Betjeman narrating, infact presenting... I've never seen him before, just heard him...

And did my 'Carbon Account' gas meter and electricity meter readings.

Gill was not well this evening, with extreme pain in her right kidney area. The previous day she'd had a painful toe and during today, an achey leg. She mused about whether she was having a bit of gout... and the kidney pain could have been a kidney stone. Gill used to be a nurse but I cannot comment about the likelihood of something moving from her toe to kidney.. but every time she moved she yelled out in pain. At 10pm she rang NHS Direct and a bit later, the out of hours doctor, and by 3am the pain was so acute, she asked me to ring her a taxi so she could go to A+E. She was back within the hour bearing antibiotics, incase the pain was simply an infection. Poor ol' Gilly.

Friday 1st August 08

An early start as a gig in Sheffield, with the summer playscheme of Sheffield Autistic Society.

So left the house soon after 8.15 to get the 8.44. Met my good friend Will on the platform, who was heading down to Bristol so I chatted with him all the way to Sheffield.

Was met at Sheffield by one of the playleaders, Sam, who drove me to Whirlow Hall Farm where the playscheme was based. (For a 360 degree virtual tour of some of the Farm, click here).

I could have performed in a farmyard but it was windy and started to rain. So a barn which had sheep poo on the floor was hurriedly swept and stools brought in, making it a quite unusual venue... but a very good show ensued. I always find it interesting that with groups of 'ordinary' children, at birthdayparties or schools events, there are significant numbers of disruptive children and the show can be relativelt difficult. However, with 'special needs' groups, even children with special behavioural needs, there is never any difficulty or any disruption. This is something I've noted over 15 years of working as a children's entertainer. I'm nt making any value judgements or negative comments, nor am I offering an explanation, it's just an observation. I ate lunch with the youngsters, where there was a bit of conflict, but the playleaders soon separated the protagonists and all became peaceful again. I then did a 45 minute workshop/freeplay session, also offering balloon models to those who wanted them.

Between 1.30 and 2, we'd sorted out the paperwork and my friend Ali came to pick me up. We visited Eccleshall Woods where there's a sawmill and a newly opened wooden building which houses a selection of beautiful wooden objects, carvings, turned bowls, furniture and more. Ali was looking for a bench and someone to create raised beds for her small garden.

After a fairly leisurely look round and chat here, we went back to her place where her 5 yr old daughter was waiting to meet me... she's out of hospital after 25 days, including 4 days in intensive care, following a serious bout of chicken pox, cellulitis, an abcess and complications which nearly killed her. She is the most delightful bubbly and chatty little girl, her cerebral palsy not stopping her getting on with living to the full. It was good to see that she was much improved, up and about, although still with a line into her aorta and dressings on her wounds.

Ali and I didn't spend a lot of time at her home, her new carer Z was looking after Ali's daughter so we went into Sheffield and spent some time together there... very enjoyable company. I had a 'first', a visit to 'Subway' where you order a sandwich with your own selection of fillings. I had a veggie burger thingy in a toasted brown roll with salady bits.... delicious!

I got the 8.54 train back, it came to York direct, not via Doncaster or Wakefield/Leeds but via the Pontefract line... one of my favourites and much quicker than the other routes. So in York at 9.40 and home before 10. Gill gave me some garden fruit pie and ice cream which was a tasty welcome home.